Orphaned Wyoming cougar kit gets new home

Following rehab, kitten to return to Wyoming

By Cory Hatch
November 1, 2006

A Gros Ventre cougar kitten whose mother may have succumbed to the plague found a new home at a wildlife sanctuary in Texas.

The kitten will go to a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center with the intent of releasing it back into Wyoming.

Beringia South researchers found the female kitten’s dead mother on Oct. 15 after picking up a mortality signal on the mother’s radio collar. The adult cougar had been collared as part of a scientific study.

According to Zeenie Scholz, director of programs and operations at The Cougar Fund, the mother was previously healthy and, on or about June 1, she gave birth to a litter of three female kittens.

On Oct. 15, researchers found one kitten dead underneath the mother and one kitten mission. The third kitten was also wearing a radio collar, allowing researchers to recover her.

According to Bernie Holz, a wildlife supervisor with Wyoming Game and Fish, preliminary tests suggest that the mother may have succumbed to the plague. Officials also plan to test the deceased kitten for the disease.

“Plague has been documented in mountain lions in the past…even up in Jackson,” he said.

Wyoming Game and Fish officials are currently monitoring the captured kitten at the Sybille Research facility in Wheatland.

Terry Kreeger, a veterinarian with Game and Fish, said the animal is housed in a large cage with a den, toys and a “king-sized litter box.” The cat is currently feeding on roadkill such as deer. “He just goes in his den so I can’t get a good look at him,” said Kreeger. “He cleans up his feed every day.”

On Tuesday, Scholz said a wildlife sanctuary called Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Kendalia, Texas, had agreed to take the animal. “The idea is that this kitten would be rehabilitated for release back in Wyoming,” said Scholz, explaining that The Cougar Fund would help pay expenses for the animal for up to a year. “This particular facility is a very large facility and has a very hands-off
philosophy, so they [the animals] do not become accustomed to human interaction. “

In the past, conservation groups such as The Cougar Fund have disagreed with Wyoming Game and Fish officials over cougar protection.

“What’s most striking to us at The Cougar Fund about this situation is that Wyoming Game and Fish reached out to The Cougar Fund to truly do the most appropriate thing for this kitten,” said Scholz. “To us, this marks a real change in our relationship.”

www.jhnewsandguide.com

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